by John Egan
Business travel doesn't need to be all work and no play. Increasingly, travelers are blending business and leisure, resulting in a trend dubbed "bleisure" travel. A 2014 survey by Hotwire.com found that nearly half of Americans who travel for work tack leisure time onto their business trips.
"You might have to travel for business, but it doesn't mean you have to let much-deserved leisure trips fall by the wayside," said Henrik Kjellberg, president of Hotwire.com.
Not surprisingly, sightseeing rates as the top activity for bleisure travelers, the Hotwire.com survey shows. To help bleisure travelers make the most of their time in Houston, we've assembled a list of five must-see sightseeing spots in the Bayou City.
Space Center Houston
While you can't enter NASA's Johnson Space Center - a major hub for the U.S. space program - without a security clearance, you can visit Space Center Houston.
The visitors' center features more than 400 space artifacts, permanent and traveling exhibits, attractions and theaters "related to the exciting future and remarkable past of America's human space-flight program ... ."
Each year, more than 800,000 people tour the 183,000-square-foot education and entertainment complex. Are you ready for an out-of-this-world experience?
Twenty feet below the streets of downtown Houston, you'll find a system of tunnels stretching about 7½ miles. Hundreds of shops, restaurants and retailers are scattered throughout this underground destination.
Want to make the trek to the tunnels? Only Wells Fargo Plaza and the McKinney Garage on Main Street provide direct street-level access. Otherwise, you'll have to make your way underground via stairs, escalators and elevators inside office buildings linked to the tunnels.
The tunnels are open weekdays but not on weekends. Guided tours are available, making it even easier to explore this underground maze.
A shopping center can be a sightseeing attraction, right? It certainly can be if it's The Galleria.
The largest shopping center in Texas and one of the largest in the U.S., The Galleria contains 2.4 million square feet and features more than 400 stores and restaurants, along with a full-size ice rink. The Galleria complex also includes two hotels and three office towers.
The Galleria, Houston's most popular retail and tourist destination, sits at Westheimer Road and Post Oak Boulevard in the Uptown area. Happy sightseeing - and shopping!
Discovery Green, next to the George R. Brown Convention Center and the Hilton Americas-Houston hotel, is one of the new kids on the park block.
The 12-acre park, which debuted in 2008, was carved out of an urban eyesore as part of a $182 million revitalization project. Highlights of Discovery Green include Kinder Lake, a jogging trail, gardens, two performance spaces, two fountains, a playground, two restaurants, artwork, a putting green and plenty of green space.
"The park was envisioned by several committed Houston philanthropists who saw the space as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an urban park that would redefine the landscape of downtown," according to the Discovery Green website.
In 2017, Discovery Green will host numerous events leading up to the Super Bowl. But, of course, you don't have to wait until then to be bowled over by Discovery Green.
Yes, it's been shuttered since 2008. But even from the outside, the "Eighth Wonder of the World" still is a wonder. The National Trust for Historic Places calls it "an iconic piece of 20th century Americana."
The Astrodome - once home to the Houston Astros baseball team and Houston Oilers football team - opened in 1965. The vacant 1 million-square-foot stadium, formally known as NRG Astrodome, is next to NRG Stadium. The address: 8400 Kirby Drive.
"As the world's first indoor, air-conditioned domed stadium, the 18-story multipurpose structure set the bar for arena design and construction for decades to come," the National Trust for Historic Places says.
At least for now, there's no place like (Astro)dome.
Learn more about planning your next meeting or event in Houston at www.visithoustontexas.com/meetings/